There’s a theme that has become increasingly prevalent in the Missouri legislature over the past several years.
On several occasions the legislature has ignored the opinion of Missouri voters and voted to repeal laws enacted by the people through the initiative process. The attitude seems to be: “We know better than the voters. We know what you should want. We have more power than you, so we will do what we want.”
That attitude worries me. That’s not why I was elected to the Missouri House, and I doubt that is what voters believe. Sure, some voters — those who opposed linking the minimum wage to cost of living, or opposed the puppy mill legislation, or opposed campaign finance limits, or were in favor of the conceal and carry measure — might agree with overturning them, but how can any voter argue that it is all right to disregard ballot box decisions in a representative democracy?
I tried to broker a compromise position on Proposition B, the law concerning dog breeders, after it became apparent that the House was going to overturn it. No room for compromise there — they have the votes, and it looks as though legislators will again exercise their will.
Last week with House Bill 61 the House of Representatives voted 92-60 to overturn the state minimum wage law approved in 2006 by 76 percent of Missouri voters. The bill prohibits the state minimum wage from exceeding the federal minimum wage and specifies that every employer must pay each employee who receives compensation in the form of gratuities a wage of $3.63 per hour.
In 1999, Missouri voters defeated a conceal-carry gun measure by almost 50,000 votes statewide. Four years later, the state legislature undid the vote of the people and pushed through right-to-carry legislation. Now, lawmakers continue to push bills that would erase any existing right-to-carry restrictions on college campuses and other public venues.
In 2008, the voters adopted a statewide renewable energy standard by a 2-to-1 majority. Just this session, the majority of the legislature defeated rules that would have given meaning to the voters’ intent.
It is wrong for legislators to blindly follow a political party’s political agenda. When that agenda also opposes the previously tested will of the voters, it is doubly wrong.
Chris Kelly represents the 24th District, southern Boone County, in the Missouri House of Representatives.